I was hoping to have a snippet of Magic Stars for you today, but it’s still in copy edit.
A reader writes,
This might be an obvious question but I still have trouble with it. What are some ways you structure a story. I can world build until the cows come home, give the characters their background leading up to the story, and even know the realm in which I want the story to end. But it’s the middle story bit that always gets me.
For one particular story I have an outline of, girl comes to town and meets guy, girl gets accused of a crime she didn’t commit and guy helps her, and finally girl and guy get the criminal that actually committed the crime. Now all the intervening stuff needs to come into play and…I got nothing. Maybe my problem has more to do with progression than actual structure.
Is this something I just need to figure out myself? Or could you share some experiences you have with this?
This is a difficult question to answer without seeing your synopsis, mostly because I don’t understand what you mean by intervening stuff. What you described is a complete story. The protagonist is accused of a crime, she works to clear her name, she gets the bad guy. Send me a one page synopsis.
Another reader writes,
You’ve spoken about your experiences in getting published and I know this doesn’t seem to happen often but I read an article about a man who had his first book publishing deal for $2 million. (see article here:http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/how-a-first-time-novelist-scored-a-2-million-deal-1.2635202). Do you think it was just that great a book? Books in this genre sell better so people are willing to pay more? Why this much or is it more common than I thought? This just seems crazy to me. I hope his book is amazing because now I feel expectations are high.
This is a complicated question. I have no idea if the book is amazing, but several publishing houses thought it was marketable enough to bid on it. It’s not always about the amazing quality of the book but rather marketability of the book. A large advance is also a marketing tool. It creates an instant media buzz. You know about the book now, because you’ve seen the article about the advance. People who wouldn’t otherwise pick up this book now will buy it to see what is so special about it.
A large advance is often a curse rather than a blessing. Let’s take an imaginary author Jane. Jane has written a Twilight-like piece of YA fiction at the time when Twilight ruled. Jane sends her book to the agent, who looks at it and thinks, “Twilight readers will snap this up!” So the agents sends the book widely and several editors look at it and say, “Twilight readers will snap this up!” All of them bid on the book, driving the advance higher and higher, until the book sells at some ridiculous number, like $500,000. The book comes out, the readers read it, and say, “It’s just like Twilight. Meh. How boring. We already have Twilight and we don’t care about vampires anymore anyway. It’s all about sad guitar players now.”
It is really difficult to earn back $500,000. To put things in perspective, if Jane is earning 10% from hardcover sales, and the book is priced at $15 (since it’s a book for young adults, it might even come out as a trade paper back), Jane is earning a whooping $1.50 from each sale. She has to move 333, 333 books before she earns out. A typical genre bestseller paperback from someone like us or equivalent paranormal/uf author usually sells between 50 and 80K in the year of release. It slows down substantially after that.
The good news is that some people absolutely will love the book and because the publishing house likely sank a ton of money into publicity, it will sell some copies and Jane will still hopefully have a career. But her next advance won’t be as large and the publishing industry, because it’s not fair, will mark the author as epic fail.
There are other factors. For example, I don’t know, near future SF/Romance gets huge, let’s say. All of the genre publishing imprints will scramble to launch their own star-studded line up. They will be grabbing whatever SF/Romance they can get their hands on and paying through the roof for it. They will designate certain titles as front runners, pay big advances to draw attention to the book, print hundreds of ARCs, and those leading books will likely become bestsellers. The other books will sell decently but not super great. Then the playing field will cool, as if currently happening with the UF, contracts will be cut, and the publishing will be off to chase another trend.
The perfect bestseller from the publishing house point of view is a book for which they paid small advance that unexpectedly explodes like Harry Potter or DaVinci Code. (Although in DaVinci Code’s case, they made it a bestseller by printing an ungodly number of ARCs and mailing them to everyone.) I will state for the record that I would love to write one of those, but sadly it’s probably not in the cards.
A reader writes,
I love your books and your blog. I recently saw your post about old snippets and I was wondering if you still had the sparkly vampire snippet? I was having trouble finding it on the blog, but I might just not be searching thoroughly enough.
Ehhh… This snippet was written in response to a reader email that asked whether or not we would ever write a traditional pretty boy vampire. It somewhat contributed to Innkeeper Chronicles, because once we wrote this, Gordon asked me what sort of family Maud would have. That’s where the concept of the inn began.
A faint flutter brushed against the back of my neck. The cat ward tattooed on my left shoulder blade stirred, prickling me with his claws. I raised my head from my locker. A boy was looking at me from across the hallway. Tall, blond, with eyes that were the purest unnatural shade of aquamarine.
He saw me looking and smiled. The smile lit up his face, warming his eyes, turning him impossibly beautiful. A subtle aroma floated on the draft, a mix of sandalwood and something slightly sweet. The cat on my shoulder stretched and rose, just in case.
The aroma tugged on me, enticing, spiced with magic. A vampire. Of course.
The boy headed in my direction, moving like a tiger on the prowl: graceful, elegant, and ready to pounce. He looked like he needed one of those tailored Tudor doublet things and a rapier. That’s one of the things vampires were good at – they made it seem they were miles better than you so when they stooped to your level, you were supposed to feel special.
I stuffed my Trig textbook into my backpack and pushed the locker shut.
“Hi! I’m Sebastian.”
Of course you are. They never had normal names like James or Robert. I had to say something. “Hi.”
He stepped a a few inches too close. “I haven’t seen you before. Are you new?”
Vampires were like cats: new meant exciting. “Maybe you just didn’t notice me.”
He cranked the smile up another notch. Miranda’s cheesy books go on and on about how the vampire skin is like polished white marble. They’re off by a mile. Marble is cold and monotone. Sebastian radiated warmth. He was vivid, as if everyone in the room was in black and white and he was the only one in color. He made you think of sex. Of what it would be like.
His voice caressed my skin. “I would’ve noticed you.”
I needed to giggle. If I giggled, he’d write me off as an easy target and probably move on. Problem was, I’ve never giggled in my entire life.
“You never told me your name…”
One giggle. I could do it. I had to do it or he wouldn’t leave me alone.
No. Not happening.
To the left Jessica turned the corner and saw us. She froze for a second, gulped, and headed toward us with a determined look on her face. “Hey!”
A faint hint of a grimace passed over Sebastien’s face.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. We’re going home together. Now.”
“We were talking,” Sebastien said.
“That’s nice, but she doesn’t need to be talking to you. Leave her alone, it’s her first day. Come on, Maud, we’re leaving.”
A burst of magic shot from Sebastien. Jessica stopped in mid-step.
“You don’t need to go home with Maud,” he said, his whisper saturated with force of suggestion.
“You’re right,” Jessica said. Her eyes went vacant.
“Maud is walking home with me. You’re leaving.”
“I’ve got to go,” Jessica said. “Bye, Maud.”
Obi Wan did it much better. “Bye.”
She walked away. I swung my backpack onto my shoulder and followed her. Sebastien matched my stride.
“Maud…” Poof, burst of magic. Overkill.
“What a beautiful name…” Poof, another burst.
The air was so thick with his magic, I wanted to wave my hand in front of my face.
“It’s such a nice day.” Poof! “Let me walk you home.”
“You’re adorable,” he said.
You really shouldn’t have said that. Really. “No.”
“Yes,” he murmured, opening the door for me. I stepped through into the sunshine. “You want to walk with me.”
“No, I really don’t. You’re an idiot. And a pervert.”
“Don’t charm Jessica again. I like her.”
The smooth mask slid off his face. For a second his eyes looked predatory, his lips trembled, baring his fangs, and then he hid it again. “That sounded like a threat.”
“You know what’s the fastest way to kill you, Sebastien? It isn’t by staking you or setting you on fire. The fastest way is to reach inside a vampire and rip his soul from his body.”
He sneered. “And you can do that?”
“No, I can’t. But my brother can. That’s his car over there.” I nodded at the dark Land Rover. “The sad thing for you is that if you piss me off enough, I won’t even need my brother to deal with you. ”
I walked away, heading to the Land Rover. Now Klaus would spend the entire ride to the Inn interrogating me about talking to vampires. Maybe I should rethink this whole highschool thing.